Army general who commanded in Iraq dies of cancer at age 67

WASHINGTON , -- Raymond T. Odierno was a former Army general who commanded American forces and coalition forces in Iraq during the height of war.

Army general who commanded in Iraq dies of cancer at age 67

WASHINGTON , -- Raymond T. Odierno was a former Army general who commanded American forces and coalition forces in Iraq during the height of war. He also served as the Army's chief-of-staff for 39 years. His family announced Saturday that Odierno had died. He was 67.

A family statement stated that the general died following a courageous battle with cancer. It was not related to COVID. "I don't have any other details at the moment. His family is thankful for his concern and requests privacy.

Odierno, who died Friday, was not identified by the family. The family said that information on funerals and interments was not yet available.

President Joe Biden described Odierno, a "hero with great integrity and honour," and made a joint statement. First Lady Jill Biden also recalled that Odierno spoke at Beau's funeral. Beau was a soldier under Odierno and died from brain cancer in 2015.

"Ray was a giant within military circles -- dedicated first, always, to the service men he commanded or served alongside," said the Bidens. They also noted that Odierno's wife Linda was an advocate for military families and children.

They said, "We stand by the Odierno family" and all of their brave servicemen who were shaped by General Odierno during his lifetime of service.

Odierno stood 6 feet 5 inches tall. Odierno was a West Point cadet who played football and remained a passionate fan of the game for his entire life. Christine Wormuth, Army Secretary, wrote Saturday evening on Twitter that Odierno represented the values of West Point as well as the Army.

She wrote, "A leader larger than life. We will always remember him for his selfless service and sacrifice to our nation and our soldiers in uniform."

Lloyd Austin, the Defense Secretary, was Odierno's successor as top commander in Iraq in 2010. He called him a friend, confidant and a strong example.

Austin released a statement saying that Ray was well-known for his loyalty to the mission and his people. He cared deeply for the troops he knew as General O and he and Linda looked after their families as if they were theirs."

Odierno was in Iraq for three tours. Some criticised him for his aggressive tactics, which some felt fed an insurgency. His soldiers were part of the capture of Saddam Hussein, Iraq's president, at an early high point, in December 2003. This victory gave hope of quashing an insurgency. However, in 2004, the insurgency gained more momentum and led to al-Qaida's rise in Iraq.

In 2006, Odierno was back in Iraq and served two years as the commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq. He was appointed the highest overall American and coalition commander in Baghdad in 2008.

Odierno, a Rockaway native, graduated from West Point's U.S. Military Academy in 1976 with a commission as a field artillery officer. His roles in the Army and Defense Department included multiple tours abroad in Iraq, Germany and Albania. He was a three-star General and served as the assistant to the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. This job made him the chief military advisor to the secretary of State.

In 2015, Odierno resigned as Army chief of staff to be succeeded by Gen. Mark Milley (current chairman of the Joint Chiefs). Milley stated Saturday that Odierno's legacy would "live on through all generations he commanded."

Ashton Carter, then-Defense Secretary, described Carter as a commander who gave civilian leaders great confidence through his operational savvy and tenacity at a ceremony to mark his retirement from Army in 2015.

Carter stated, "His commanding presence calmed those confused and his courage helped carry the weight of loss and sacrifice."

North Carolina State University announced three months ago that Odierno had been elected to its board of trustees. He received a Master's degree in Nuclear Effects Engineering from North Carolina State University in 1986. Odierno Associates was his consulting company in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Updated Date: 10 October 2021, 06:24

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